Page images

of Church property, and the manner that subsisted between the regular in which he would deal with it, are clergy and the monastic and mendibolder than even subsequent reform- cant orders, did something to protect ers, at the height of their success, him; but his escape was mainlyowing could have ventured to propound. to the fact that he stood almost alone. He would have reduced the Church He had no following as yet. His to the condition of apostolic simpli- views were probably regarded less city. There is a sort of Cobbett-like with alarm than with wonder and shrewdness, and a sort of Cobbett- surprise, as the wild extravagances of like narrowness, in his views on this an enthusiast. In a subsequent age, topic. In one respect Wycliffe did when he was recognised as founder not treat his own order with common of the Lollards, the Church did its justice; for he argues as if the nobles best to remedy its error and remissof the land were more likely to see ness. His bones were burnt, no doubt that priests did their duty, preached with intense regret that they were the gospel, and led pure lives, than only bones—no muscle and no nerve the Church. Careless and pleasure- upon them. loving as bishops and abbots might Unsparing and uncompromising as be, there was little hope of reform in our reformer was, we have no trace, calling upon the nobility of the day to writes Dr Hanna, of personal quarresume the grants of their ancestors, rels in his history: He lashed the and constitute themselves the guard- Mendicants, but always as a class. ians of the property and the disci. He was in constant battle, but always pline of the priesthood. “Think ye, for the truth. Wherever there was lords and mighty men,” he exclaims, corruption, his hand was raised to “who support priests, how fearful it strike, but it was vice always that is to maintain worldly priests in their he aimed at. “For a quarter of a lusts, who neither know good por will century,” says our author," he lived learn it, nor will live as holy men in in the stormy atmosphere of controtheir order! For ye may lightly versy. In his invectives he was vioamend them by only telling them lent and unrestrained; he lashed with .that

ye will not support them but as unrelenting severity the ambition, the they do their duty, live well, and luxury, the worldliness, the selfishpreach the gospel. Then, indeed, ness of friars, prelates, priests. But they would certainly do this. And he never, so far as I am aware, was think ye, great men, were not this a involved in a personal quarrel ; he thousand fold better than to conquer never stooped to personal abuse. No the world? Hereby there should be individual friar, priest, or prelate is none cost to you nor travail, but ever selected to suffer beneath his honour to God, and endless good to lash; and though all the vocabulary yourselves, to priests, and to all of abuse was exhausted upon him in Christendom ; for thus, by reducing return by his irritated adversaries, the clergy to meekness, and useful they have not named a single inpoverty, and ghostly travail, as lived stance in which he spoke a word that Christ and his apostles, sin should be he had to retract, or did a deed for destroyed, and holiness of life brought which he had to apologise.” Truly a jn,” &c. &c. Not finding the gospel, wonderful man was this rector of or pure living, in the clergy of the Lutterworth, “Had he,” concludes day, did our reformer expect to ob- Dr Hannatain them through the pious zeal of armed men, whom he would call from “Had he at that early age in which he the conquest of the world to the in- lived seen but half the length he sawviting task of superintending the had he done but half of what he did

had he attacked but one or two of the "ghostly travail” of the priest ? One marvels how Wycliffe escaped into action but one or two of the great

chief strengths of the enemy, and brought martyrdom. He did everything to engines of war_our eye had fixed on him secure it. He attacked the myste- as the foremost pioneer of that great host ries, and he assailed the property, of led on by Luther, who, far in advance of the Church, the two points on which all the rest-alone in the thickest of the it is most susceptible. The jealousy enemy—had first lifted the war-cry of the



Reformation and commenced the battle. to say a satisfactory word upon so But a century and a half before the ranks immense and so entangled a subject. mustered under their great German The sketch which Dr Hanna has leader, to see this solitary English soldier given us, we have already said, lies fighting that battle as he did, taking up under the disadvantage of being too every position that was afterwards taken brief ; we should do no possible serup, using every instrument of war that afterwards was used, assaulting every

vice by attempting to be still briefer. stronghold that was afterwards assaulted

Dr Hanna writes throughout with -nay more, advancing in more than one a courteous and liberal spirit. He direction further than ever Luther led- would rather go out of his way to alone, deserted, pressing on to the last, find an apology than to frame an acnot a jot of heart or hope abated, his last cusation. Wherever it is possible, he strokes his strongest, till he fell

, but fell takes an indulgent view even of that all-confident that he left victory in store party against which he is naturally for those who followed. What annalist of the great campaign shall describe to us

We cannot be surprised,

opposed. the place and part in it that such a war

therefore, that when the course of his rior filled, or who shall weave for us the subject leads him to some mention of crown that we would like to plant upon

the great French reformer, Calvin, his pale and palsied brow ?”—(P. 141.)

we find him somewhat more apolo

getical than the strict justice of the The second portion of Dr Hanna’s case appears to us to warrant. It book treats, as we have said, of the would have been wiser to leave altoHuguenots, or the Reformation in gether untouched that fatal burning France : we are not disposed on the of Servetus, of which the world has present occasion to enter on that heard enough, and the circumstances period of history. It is a most com- connected with which have now been plicate and voluminous subject. No- thoroughly sifted, than to write of it where does the Reformation present in an apologetic strain which will not to us a greater variety of phase, and bear examination. When you have nowhere is each aspect that it pre- said that Calvin did but share the sents more marked and decisive. Do

error of his age, you have said all. you wish for instances of the fiercest And the only lesson to be learned fanaticism, of the most heroic and from the terrible blunder he commiteager martyrdom, you will find them ted is that which shows us what sort nowhere more plentiful than in the of doctrine or principle it is which earlier period of the Reformation in leads, by strictest logic, to so cruel ad France. Illiterate men are seen band- action. ed together, ready to go, hand in hand, That doctrine or principle is that it through any torture to a thousand is the duty of the magistrate to see deaths, if that were possible. Learned to the purity of the faith in the citimen are seen disseminating their criti- zen or the subject. And, indeed, cal views from the university. Po- men are almost as liable in this litical men are seen to throw them- present time in which we live as in selves into the contest, working out, the age of Calvin, to assume some in this religious turmoil, their own standard of religious faith, and to ambitious ends. A superstitious mul- assert that it is a legitimate object of titude are seen inflamed against he- the laws to keep every mind as much retics; they enact and anticipate the as possible to that standard. That is September massacres of the Revolu- truth as they see it-a truth momention in defence of the Virgin and the tous to all mankind, and of vital imsaints; every aspect is in the extreme. portance, so they persuade themThe greatest levity, the most enor- selves, to human society. They canmous cruelty, the sternest fanaticism, not wean themselves from the idea the most corrupt and selfish of mo- that it should be part and parcel of tives, and the most genuine piety and the law of the land. We alluded at self-sacrifice-all is there, all is evolv- the commencement of our paper to ed as the mingled political and reli- the theory of a universal church based gious drama proceeds in its develop- upon the possession of a revelation ment. It would be a hopeless task, from Heaven, and embracing the in the brief space that lies before us, whole human family in one Christian brotherhood. This theory breaks serting that persecution is practidown, because, notwithstanding the cally a matter of degree-that one claim to revelation and the guidance execution in the republic of Geneva of the Holy Spirit, differences of is not an equivalent for the many opinion do arise, and convicted errors burnings decreed by the monarchies have appeared. Unmistakable facts of France and Spain-and that Procontradict the theory. When the testants, at all events, waited till Protestants relinquished this theory, some overt act of heresy had been and separated themselves from the committed, and did not hunt out reCatholic Church, they still, each sec- tiring dissentients who were doing tion for itself, claimed to be in pos- all they could to conceal their private session of a positively revealed truth, devotions. But what can our very upon which further argument was not amiable author mean by claiming for to be permitted. If religion were Calvin the merit of having first atfounded, they said, on the speculative tempted “the arduous task of sepaexercise of human reason, then the rating wholly the two domains, the same speculative reason might be civil and the ecclesiastical-each aupermitted to modify it in each in- thority left supreme in its own dividual. But it was founded on a sphere”? If the Christian magistrate positive revelation, and the Protestant was to hold it to be his duty to exhad only to read the Book honestly. terminate error by the sword, of what Each Protestant community felt it- earthly consequence can it be whether self, therefore,authorised to pronounce he does this as the servant of the on truth, and hand it over to the church, or by his own proper authorcustody of the magistrate. Calvin ity as such Christian magistrate ? was in perfect harmony with his own On the 5th May 1559, the first age (and would find many persons at Synod of the Reformed Church met the present day in more complete ac- at Paris. They met at a time when cordance with him than they them- a fierce persecution was directed selves suspect) when he called upon against themselves. They met to the civil magistrate to watch over the frame a Confession of Faith, and an purity of the faith. On this painful order of worship, discipline, and gosubject of the execution of Servetus vernment. These came, we are told, he writes in a letter to Sultzer, dated originally from the pen of Calvin. Sept. 9, 1553, “I avow that I thought Themselves the object of persecution it my duty, as far as in me lay, to re- by the civil magistrate, this Synod strain a man who is more than obsti- nevertheless insert the following nate and untamable, in order that article in their Confession of Faiththe contagion might spread no farther. that God “hath delivered the sword We see how violently impiety every- into the magistrate's hands, that all where stalks abroad, whence new sins committed against both the tables errors spring up, and how great is of God's law, not only against the the remissness of those to whom God second, but against the first also, may has confided the power of the sword be suppressed.” Dr Hanna then conin vindicating the honour of his name.

tinues : While the Papists are so alert and “ This clause contains the fatal dogma fierce in supporting their super- that six years before had sent Servetus stitions that they riot in innocent to the stake. It being now laid down blood, Christian magistrates might be that both tables of God's law should ashamed to show themselves destitute unitedly form part of the civil and cri. af all spirit in defending the sure minal code, and that it was equally oblitruth of God's Word.” It would be gatory on the magistrate to punish useless to multiply quotations. The breaches of both, an inexorable logic

Let prevailing Protestant sentiment of doomed Servetus to be burned. the time is here very naively express- Genevese reformer, nor set up that

us not misunderstand, however, the ed :-You Catholics, with great fury single burning pile of Servetus against and zeal, support error; we Protest- the thousands of Spain and France ants, with more lenient or rarer

and Holland, as if it proved that the punishments, support the truth. first reformers were as great persecu

Dr Hanna is very right in as- tors as the churchmen of Rome. From the time of the fourth Lateran Council mon benefit. The religion consisted in 1215, it was the creed and practice of more of ceremonial than of doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church that all

and what private soldier going to secular powers should be constrained the wars would care to pronounce, to enforce the sentence of the Church

on his own responsibility, what cereagainst heretics, and lend their aid to exterrninate them. So far from turning

monies or sacrifices would please the the State into a tool of the Church, to

gods ? Worship was first social bebe employed in such a way and for such fore it was private. There was no à purpose, Calvin's was the hand that motive for disputing the national will first attempted the arduous task of se- on a subject so intimately connected parating wholly the two domains—the with the national prosperity. civil and the ecclesiastical-each autho. When Christianity became the rerity left supreme in its own sphere. The ligion of the majority, it took the Church's sole instrument, he tells us in place of the old Paganism. How his Institutes, is the Word. His last

could it have been otherwise ? It punishment is excommunication, which he is to use only in extreme necessity.”

was the rooted habit to regard reli

gion as a national care-as a national --(P. 174.)

necessity. Men, as a nation, it was Dr Hanna would be incapable of thought, must 'worship God. But writing a disingenuous passage, and the Christian religion is more doo he himself has laid the whole truth trinal than ceremonial ; and during before his readers; but how did he the earliest ages of Christianity we deceive himself into the notion that find a fierce struggle going on to dehe was here framing some apology, termine what dogmas shall compose claiming some merit, for Calvin ? If the religion of the State. Some of the sword is to descend on the the subtlest points of doctrine that neck of the heretic, what comfort could be presented to the intellectcan it be to him, or to us, to be as- if, indeed, they were not altogether sured that this is the proper func- beyond the scope of human intellition of the Christian magistrate,


gence-are seen contending together that the Christian Church uses the for the mastery. An approximation Word only, and restricts itself to to unity is obtained by popular faexcommunication? Calvin's attempt vour to some mystery, or by force of at the arduous task of separating logic, or by imperial influence, or the the two domains, civil and ecclesias- happy combination of the three. But tical, leaves the heretic with his head it is only an approximation. Dis upon the block, and curiously dis- pute never terminates. There is cusses which of the two powers ori- never a period when some disputants ginates the most legitiinate order to have not to be argued against, or Bever it froin his shoulders.

quelled in a more summary manner. Instead of further bewailing the This attempt at unity in a religion persecutions that have taken place, that is mainly doctrinal, has never it would be the wisest part to note quite succeeded ; and, what is evihow almost inevitably they have dent to the most careless observer, arisen, and against what tendency the more people think and discuss, to commit similar errors we have the more hopeless becomes this nastill to struggle. He who floats with tional unity. It is time that the the stream does not feel the force of attempt be altogether relinquished. the current. He who thinks with Let us cease to plague each other by all around him exclaims that con- tests, judicial oaths, and subscripviction is free, and that no man is tions to articles. Let us fully and constrained either to suffer or to dis- finally understand that it is not the semble. Tests, oaths, subscriptions, province of the magistrate to enforce are of course felt as no burden tó both “tables of the law”--that the those who willingly take them. conduct of man to man is the sole

In the old heathen time, religion object of jurisprudence. By this was more an affair of the State than reticence human society will not it was of the individual conscience. forfeit any of the advantages of the Its great ceremonies were performed religious faith that stirs and lives for national safety, or for the com- within it-will rather, we feel per

When we say

suaded, receive a larger share of that yet not require the fostering aid of permeating and moralising influence legislation, or the rewards and punwhich results from religion.

ishments which the law can bestow. We will not dwell longer on a We renounce no high or spiritual topic which to many of our readers motives, but, even in very favour of may appear trite and familiar. We these, we limit the sphere of governwill make but one more observa- ment to the palpable moralities betion, and then leave them, if they tween man and man. are so disposed, to the perusal of that security to life and property is this pleasant historical volume of Dr the legitimate object of the law, we Hanna.

do not mean that man has only to It is evident that the degree of live for his property; we simply astoleration already attained in Europe sert that the higher part of man's has been owing to the successful life needs not, and should be altogestruggle that Protestantism has been ther manumitted from, the coarse able to make against Catholicism. restraints of any species of penal leThe majority had, in every country, gislation. Such theory of governa manifest disposition to tyrannise ment, though introduced in the rude over the minority : where the mino- manner we have described, may be rity could make itself respected by ultimately received on its own proper its force and numbers, there, and merits. there only, a toleration ensued. But Thus every work on the Reformathough toleration depends, in the tion introduces us to three phases of first instance, on a certain balance of Christendom : the theory of the unipower, or on the relative strength of versal Church, the theory of a vaparties, it does not follow that it tional Church, and that state into must always rest on this coarse and which we are settling, in which re. unsatisfactory basis ; so that if any ligion is considered as a subject of one sect should obtain a great pre- instruction only-in which Governdominance, our habits of toleration ment judiciously lends its aid by must cease to exist. Happily, it is taking advantage of such unanimity the tendency of every progressive as it finds, the attempt at a national people to regard religion more and unity in religious faith_being enmore as an affair of the individual tirely relinquished. The Established conscience, less and less as a matter Church of England may now be reof State interference. A toleration garded as a great institution for the won, in the first instance, through religious instruction and religious martyrdomand war, becomes wrought worship of the people, which opposes into our theory of government. We itself to no other instruction or worhave made the discovery that a ship, except in that most legitimate mode of thought may be most excel- manner—the surpassing them in exlent, or even essential to society, and cellence.

« PreviousContinue »